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Pepperdine Survives Long Beach Scare

March 24, 2007

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Top-ranked Pepperdine had to rally back from a 2-0 hole Saturday night at The Walter Pyramid to defeat the Long Beach State 49ers 3-2 (23-30, 33-35, 30-20, 33-31, 15-12) and maintain its lead in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) race.

Paul Carroll led all players with 32 kills on .431 hitting and added 10 digs, three aces and five blocks for Pepperdine (19-1, 15-1 MPSF). Tom Hulse broke the school's rally-scoring record for blocks in a match with 15. J.D. Schleppenbach had 15 kills on .440 hitting and Jon Grobe added 14 kills, nine digs and a career-high eight blocks.

Paul Lotman's 20 kills paced Long Beach State (11-11, 6-10 MPSF). Dan Alexander and Daniel Fabry each turned in 17 kills, while Teddy Liles ended the night with 16.

Unforced errors proved costly for Pepperdine in game one. After the Waves scored the first two points of the night, Long Beach State used a 13-6 run to take a five-point lead. Pepperdine pulled within one off a 7-3 run capped by a Tom Hulse ace. The Waves were never able to tie the game and the 49ers broke open a 23-22 game by scoring seven of the final eight points. Despite outblocking Long Beach State by a 6-3.5 margin, Pepperdine was outhit by the 49ers .194-.067.

Pepperdine squandered four game points in the second set and equaled its game one total of six service errors to just two aces to fall behind two-games-to-none for the first time this season. The Waves held a slim 9-7 lead early in the frame but Long Beach State used a 7-2 run to take an 18-14 lead. Pepperdine trailed the rest of the way until Grobe and Hulse recorded the team's first block of game two to give the Waves a 29-28 lead. The 49ers got a break on a miscommunication between Jonathan Winder and Greg Gaudino to take a 33-32 lead. Gaudino tied the score at 33-all before consecutive Lotman kills sealed the deal.

Carroll gave Pepperdine the lift it needed right away in game three. After the Forester, Australia notched his 12th kill of the night he toed the service line and dealt out three straight aces to put the Waves up 7-1. Long Beach State closed the gap to four at 10-6 off consecutive Liles' kills. But that would be as close as the home team would get in the set as Pepperdine maintained control of the game the rest of the way.

Pepperdine looked like it was going to pick up right where it left off in game three getting out to a 5-2 lead. Long Beach State would not go quietly though and fought back to tie the set at 9-9. Moments later the 49ers used a 4-0 run to take a 14-11 lead. The Long Beach State lead reached as many as four on two different occasions, the last coming at 23-19. The Waves chipped away at the deficit until a kill from Schleppenbach, a block by Gaudino and Carroll and a kill from Carroll evened the score at 27-all. Winder's service error ended the run and Fabry gave Long Beach State two match-point tries. Schleppenbach fought off the first attempt and Liles was blocked by Gaudino and Winder on the ensuing play to tie the set at 29-29. Liles came through on the next play but consecutive kills from Carroll turned the tide on the 49ers as it was now Pepperidne's turn to serve for the game. Lotman's 15th kill of the night tied the score at 31-all before the Waves turned to Carroll for his 14th kill of game four. Pepperdine's Grobe and Hulse teamed up to stuff Lotman, sending the match to a fifth game.

Pepperdine blocked Liles on the first play of game five and after Schleppenbach and Hulse turned back a Lotman attack Long Beach State retreated into a timeout trailing 5-3. The Waves held an 8-5 lead at the switch after a Schleppenbach kill. Lotman connected on consecutive swings to bring the home team within one, 11-10, but again the Waves' block was up to the challenge, keeping Pepperdine in the lead 12-10. Carroll's 32nd kill of the game gave the visitors their first chance to avenge their only loss of the season and with Schleppenbach alone on the outside against Fabry and the Ventura, Calif. native came up with the solo stop.

The Waves have clinched a berth in the conference tournament and will look to clinch at least one home match next week when it hosts UCLA and UC Irvine on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Both matches are slated for 7 p.m. PDT starts at Firestone Fieldhouse.